The paper-grading dream team

by | Nov 26, 2012 | Uncategorized | 27 comments

Hermes 2000
This 1939 typewriter was the sole ’30s machine in my lineup — I love the looks of typewriters from the ’30s but tend to favor later ones for heavy use. This one is precise, effective, but not a great pleasure to write on. With a little help from stick-on bits of felt, the spacing is extremely quiet. The Teflon lubricant also had a great effect on this machine. There was some gummy stuff in the segment that I could not seem to eliminate, not even after removing and individually cleaning all the typebars. Some Du Pont Teflon dry lubricant did the trick. (See here for Scott’s experience with a similar product.)

Remington Quiet-Riter
It’s chunky, it’s kinda clunky, it’s not the fastest horse in the stable, but I’m still very fond of this machine. It has lots of features, is robust, and feels satisfying to me. These must have been popular in Cincinnati in the ’50s, since for a while I was finding one every couple of weeks in the thrift store. Sadly the supply has now dried up.

Torpedo 18 (purple)
This is the legendary (?) Purple Prose Producer. It’s a fun rat-a-tat-tat typer that grades in purple, of course.

Torpedo 18 (black)
Here’s the Purple Prose Producer’s sober and rational brother. This one has a professionally recovered platen and is very smooth. I could use it for a long time. My only complaint is the return lever, which I don’t find totally ergonomic.

Royal Administrator
This typewriter (the wide-carriage version of the Royal Diana) is a good, snappy writer. It’s kind of noisy, though, as the Magic Margin springs musically sing along with every step you take.

Voss DeLuxe Silver Surfer
I just love Vosses. The carriage return has the perfect feel. It is a carriage-shifted typewriter so it’s a little harder to handle than most of the other machines in the lineup, and while the typeface is beautiful on this one, the alignment isn’t perfect.

Smith-Corona Silent-Super
Smith-Corona at its best. The parallel key action (which keeps the keys horizontal as you type) makes the feeling very nice. The return sounds kind of rattly, and I think this typewriter deserves a Polt Silencer.

Adler Special
This big baby types along with a satisfying pocketa-pocketa. But even with Teflon, it is not the smooth and snappy Adler that I dream about.

Olympia SM3/9 (Twolympia)
This is my most elaborate typewriter-modification project ever, an SM9 squeezed into an SM3 body. With a carbon ribbon and its fancy Congressional typeface, it produces beautiful work.

Hermes 3000 Silver Surfer
Damn, this looks good! Once you remove the dull gray-green Hermes paint, this model is really a stunner, I must say. The Teflon helped to improve the typing experience on this machine and it was fun to use, although it is not particularly fast compared to an Olympia or Torpedo.

Hispano Olivetti Studio 46
I was most surprised by the performance of this machine: it has a very light, very quick touch. Made in 1940 (approximately), it has some retrograde features compared to later machines, including carriage shift and a rumbly carriage return, but it is a very practical writing machine — except for the fact that it doesn’t have an apostrophe. I had to use the acute accent ´  and remember to space after it, since it’s a dead key.

Royal KMM
This 1947 gray workhorse isn’t flashy, but nothing beats it for speed and snap.

I have other favorite typers, but these are the ones I used for my grading extravaganza. I enjoyed them all. Which was best? I’d say the black Torpedo, the Twolympia, or the KMM. Which was perfect? None. I am glad to say that I’m still looking for the Platonic form of a typewriter. The search keeps this hobby interesting!


  1. Unknown

    Fun fact: Pope Pius XII used a Olivetti Studio 46. (but a more sober, professional cousin of your sunflower pictured above,of course).

  2. shordzi

    What a wonderful parade! The Hermes 2000 is very, very high on my best-portable-typewriter list. It got character. The Twolympia print is gorgeous, so is the typeface. And for some reason, the Royal Administrator is an Erika 11 look-alike.

  3. JB

    How do you get a carbon ribbon to work in your Olympia? Have you somehow adjusted it to advance more with each keystroke?

  4. Bill M

    Very beautiful machines! I really like teflon lube. I used the same teflon dry lube on my J4 that I use for my bicycle cables. Goes on wet,dries to a slick coat of slippery teflon.

  5. Richard P

    Yes, the Administrator and the Erika both have a very '50s look. I like it.

  6. Richard P

    No adjustments were necessary, it advances enough. Some other typewriters do not, and that of course makes a carbon ribbon unsuitable for them.

  7. Nat

    Beautiful machines!
    I especially like the idea of the Twolympia! How did you ever manage that?

  8. Richard P

    It's a tight squeeze but it can be done. A few tricks were necessary!

  9. Miguel Chávez

    Fantastic machines, all of them! I've also found that some machines work better than others, and would be useful for some purposes and not ideal for others. It's a great idea having them work side by side and compare them!

  10. Anonymous

    The silver surfer look is really cool. Do you use anything on the metal to protect it after stripping the paint? The twolympia looks like a beautiful sportscar!

  11. rn

    A dozen superb machines, Richard, with some super typefaces. But I'm flummoxed by your confession that you choose not to use your '30s typewriters for major bouts of writing. To me, there are quite a few machines that date back 7 decades that are nonetheless raring to go–my Olympia 8 and Remington Noiseless 10, both behemoths, both from 1938, and both smooth and satisfying, come to mind. And, on the other end of portability, my '37 Patria and '39/40 Erika 5. — Rob

  12. Richard P

    I usually put some Renaissance Wax on the metal, and I haven't had any trouble with rust or the like. Thanks for your comment.

  13. Richard P

    I'm very fond of many '30s machines, including my frist typewriter, a Remington Noiseless #7, but do find myself turning to the '50s machines most often. One thing is that I've gotten used to the basket shift that is more common in the later typewriters.

  14. rn

    My first typewriter–or, at least, the first typewriter I bought myself and fell in love with–was also a Noiseless 7. Though I haven't used it much over the past year, I still think it's insanely beautiful. I guess I have to save money and start seeking some of the top 50s machines so I can experience the difference.

  15. Duffy Moon

    Great post, Richard.
    I use Remoil liberally on pretty much all my machines. That has Teflon in it, and I've had great success with it.

    I particulary like the Walter-Mitty-esque description of your Adler's action!

  16. Richard P

    Thanks. I have a spray bottle of Remoil with Teflon on its way! I figured the Remington name deserved my support, even if the connection to Remington typewriters was lost well over a century ago.

  17. Dwayne F.

    Thanks for sharing the virtues of these machines. Some of those typefaces are drool worthy. I recently acquired the newer (1966) version of the Adler Special. It is in desperate need of fresh rubber to cut down on the gunfire loud clatter.

    I made the mistake of passing on an Adler Standard several months ago. The seller seemed flaky, the machine wasn't well described, too many recent acquisitions, etc.

  18. teeritz

    Great post, Richard! I'm inspired to give my Quiet-Riter a new paint-job. IIRC, you posted on how to strip the paint off a typewriter? I don't recall the name of the post. I'm thinking of going Silver Surfer or maybe a deep burgundy to give the machine an old-style Men's Club armchair look. Although, I was thinking of yellow-with-New-York-Checker-Cab pattern as well, but that would really require steady nerves.

  19. Rob Bowker

    Damn! That Hermes looks good naked!

  20. rn

    Something started tugging at me in the photo of your Hermes 2000 and I just figured out what it was: that William Tell crossbow. My '37 Patria has the exact same insignia in the exact same position. Whaddaya think? Coincidence? Story? Or just the dual appropriation of a national symbol that had not yet been trademarked?

  21. Richard P

    I believe the crossbow was an official sign of Swiss quality manufacturing used by various companies at the time.

  22. Cameron

    A dazzling array of typewriters, presented in your usual clean style with the graphics floating on a snowy field of white!

    I particularly enjoy the typeface comparisons.

    The concept of using the guts of an Olympia SM9 into an SM3 body is fascinating.

  23. teeritz

    Yep, that's the post. Thanks, Richard! I think the checker-cab pattern might be a little ambitious for me.

  24. michaeliany

    Richard –
    i read this post one 4am early morning after putting one of the babies back to sleep and this post excited me and i had sweet dreams once i got back to sleep.

    What wonderful toys you have!

    What an astounding thing it is to be a typewriter collector!!!

  25. Anonymous

    Just spray it all yellow, then cut little squares using low tack adhesive (purchase at an art supply store). Attach the squares over what you want to keep yellow, and spray the uncovered areas with black. I've used clear low tack adhesive to cover decals I want to preserve. Cover the decal, then trim to exact shape with an Exacto knife. Worked perfect on an old Post Office beam scale. Phil


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